Prevention is key

Roncalli’s Mike Sahm has been training student athletes for 23 years

By Rebecca Bennett

Sahm has served as the athletic trainer at Roncalli for 23 years.
Sahm is pictured here with freshman Abbie Carr. *Photo by Rebecca Bennett

Mike Sahm, a veteran athletic trainer with Roncalli Hill School, knows the importance of supporting and training student athletes in schools. He has worked with Roncalli athletes for 23 years. For the last six, he’s been assigned to Roncalli by St. Vincent Sports Performance.

“In my role as an athletic trainer, I work with our athletes and our coaches on prevention programs to keep the athletes healthy. We attend games and practices daily,” he said. “We are available for any type of injury evaluations and any type of first aid that’s needed by the athletes. And then should injuries occur, we can provide rehabilitative services as well.”

Sahm is one of two athletic trainers at Roncalli. The other, Sherry Manzelli, was named Athletic Trainer of the Year in 2003 by the Indiana Athletic Trainers Association. For National Athletic Training Month, the two trainers shared how they work as a team to care for every athlete in and out of season for each sport.

Every athlete, every sport

That adds up to a lot of compassionate care for many active athletes from Roncalli’s 22 varsity sports and up to four club sports. For Sahm and Manzelli, the priority is to develop a relationship with each student athlete.

“It’s a lot about the relationships with the kids, getting to know them and knowing the full spectrum — from the quiet kid to the freshman who doesn’t know anything about anything in high school, to the high school senior who is gung-ho and wants to play in college and doesn’t want to tell you about the injury until the body part is ready to fall off,” Sahm said.

The athletic trainers emphasize prevention, too, to try to keep kids healthy and safe.

“We provide services starting with preseason exercises and modifications with coaches to prevent injuries, to keep them on the field and prevent injuries from happening in the first place,” he said.

Working with growing adolescents, the trainers know that no amount of prevention is foolproof.

“Especially here in the springtime, with track getting started, we’re dealing with adolescent athletes who are going through growth spurts,” Sahm said. “Sometimes you’ve got a freshman male runner who just grew 6 inches in four months. The muscles are tight and need to be stretched out, and we need to modify his stretching routine.”

One Roncalli student athlete, senior Amelia Banister, dislocated her shoulder at the start of volleyball season. She was glad the athletic trainers were on hand to help her.

“They worked with me as soon as I got hurt and all the way through rehab until I was fully functional,” Banister said. “They made the therapy, the rehab and the exercises that really helped me gain strength and are now the exercises I do every day.”

The trainers serve athletes from a variety of sports with and without contact.

“Even with the noncontact sports, we see a lot of shin splints, stress fractures, things along those lines. Overuse injuries still need evaluation and care,” he said.

Sofie Carr, a freshman who plays basketball and softball, was able to get prompt help with a concussion after a hard fall.

“I took a charge and hit the back of my head on the court,” Carr said. “(Manzelli) sent me to St. Vincent to get back on my feet and get cleared to get back in the game. She helped me through the recovery process, and it took a couple of weeks.”

From Band-Aids to major surgery

The trainers support athletes in a broad range of ways, from providing basic first aid to diagnosing serious issues to helping students return from major surgery.

“We are one component of a comprehensive health care team. We work with physicians and we work with EMT and other first responders in emergency situations,” Sahm said. “It’s a collaborative piece, working with physical therapists for athletes who go to surgery and things along those lines. We’re one piece of a machine to keep everything rolling, and it’s all designed to give student athletes their best opportunities for success.”

Freshman Abbey Carr was suffering from shin splints and back and shoulder issues throughout the basketball season. The athletic trainers led her to the right doctors and routines.

“They gave me exercises and recommended me to doctors through St. Vincent so I could get medical care and find out exactly what was wrong,” she said. “I was very happy to have them here.”